Gardening-Starting seeds question

Discussion in 'Hobbies' started by kennedyscochins, Dec 27, 2011.

  1. kennedyscochins

    kennedyscochins Songster

    Sep 1, 2009
    Big Clifty
    Hello Everyone,
    I want to grow a large vegetable garden this year with raised beds. My husband has agreed to help me make it beautiful and plentiful and also put up a wooden fence around it to keep the chickens out [​IMG] I am so anxious to start seeds I can't stand it. I have three small children who will also benefit from seeing a plant go from seed to garden to table. I have heard of people starting seeds in their closets with lights on them. I am thinking I would get one of those things at walmart where you can start seeds and they have the clear lid. I need some simple advice as to when I can start seeds, when to turn a light on them and how far away the light should be? Also, what wattage? I live in KY and would like to start things like peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, etc. Any help is greatly appreciated.

  2. ChicksterJo

    ChicksterJo Songster

    Feb 19, 2011
    Grounded on Earth
    Hi, I would suggest getting a heat mat especially if you are deciding to do peppers. I was so excited this year during early spring/late winter to start my peppers that I failed pretty completely when it came to starting them. I didn't buy a heat mat and I regret not doing it. Peppers take so long to germinate! You should start peppers several weeks before the date of your last frost and tomatoes are very similar, but they are easier to germinate so I would only wait a few weeks before the last frost. If you can stand to keep them inside longer under the artificial light then you can start them earlier, but keep them away from drafts. Some peppers take way longer than others to germinate. I find that the hotter peppers take longer, so plan accordingly. Lettuce can actually be started right now. They are pretty good as a winter crop because they can tolerate cold weather well. I'd probably just start them in a bigger pot like a 2 gal. so that I wouldn't need to transplant them but they are probably best grown in a tray.

    I would use a big fluorescent bulb, around 125 watts. You can start putting light on them after they've germinated and the first set of true leaves start coming out. At first the light should be fairly close to the seedlings because they are so small, but as the plants get bigger the light should be moved far enough so that they are not getting burnt. Around 6-8" away should be fine especially with lower wattage bulbs. Transplant them as they get root-bound. I hope this helps.
  3. kennedyscochins

    kennedyscochins Songster

    Sep 1, 2009
    Big Clifty
    Ok, this may be silly, but is a heat mat the same as a heating pad? Or is it something specific for starting seeds?
  4. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Crowing Premium Member

    The heating mats for seeding are nifty. But, I've not bothered with the investment. I just set up big tables in from of large south facing windows. Under each table, I place an oil filled space heater. We have a bunch of those anyhow. This effectively produces the same result. I start nearly 600 small plants each year this way.

    200 onions
    200 tomatoes
    100 peppers
    50 squash
    100 each of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage

  5. Carols Clucks

    Carols Clucks Songster

    Oct 13, 2010
    Fred's Hens :

    The heating mats for seeding are nifty. But, I've not bothered with the investment. I just set up big tables in from of large south facing windows. Under each table, I place an oil filled space heater. We have a bunch of those anyhow. This effectively produces the same result. I start nearly 600 small plants each year this way.

    200 onions
    200 tomatoes
    100 peppers
    50 squash
    100 each of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage

    I was going to suggest something similar, we used the red party cups, cut drain holes in the bottom. They are big enough for a good root system and easy to label. We save them to use again. I put the seeds in the clear plastic under bed boxes and set in the sunny area under the sliding glass doors in my room. This year we built a green house, so I think they will only be in windows until they sprout and then moved to the green house.​
  6. aoxa

    aoxa Crowing

    The bottoms of milk jugs/cartons or any other cartons like pop bottles, etc are great to use. Even use egg shells that are halved. I think you would be better with window planters. Right now would be a little too early to start (for my area anyway), but nurseries start growing early February or late January.
  7. Frost Homestead

    Frost Homestead eggmonger

    Jul 9, 2011
    Lago Vista, TX
    I wouldn't use a light bulb to start the plants or heating pads. Regular light bulbs don't give off the full spectrum of light that the plants need, for that you would need a metal halide bulb or high pressure sodium and a ballast. Don't let the "plant bulbs" at the store fool you, they are made to "improve the appearance" of indoor plants, not help them grow.

    I would start the seeds one month before you think it's going to freeze for the last time in small containers and sit them near a well lit window. The containers with the clear covers like you mentioned that are designed for starting plants work great if you're willing to pay for them (the trays are reusable at least). The plant will grow much better when covered, but it's not necessary. Any small containers will do (just keep any cats you might have away from them or they'll eat the sprouting plants). It's really very easy to sprout plants inside as long as you have dirt, sunlight, and water.

  8. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Free Ranging

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    Every seed you're talking about has different optimal sprouting temps. (lettuce/brassicas - cool, cucumbers -warmer, tomatoes - warmer still, peppers - warmer and melons - the warmest)
    I never got the heat mats because they're expensive for the number of plants they'll work for. I have a big garden.
    This is how I do it. I have three 8' shelves, one above the other, that have flats for seed starting. Under everything I have an old salvaged baseboard heater. Melons on the bottom, tomatoes and peppers - middle shelf and cool crops on top.
    The bottom shelf has a 2X6 under the melons to keep the heat from hitting the flats directly. I put a thermometer on each shelf to figure out how high to set the heater. On both sides I lean 4X8 sheets of insulation board to direct the heat upward.
    I do this in the basement so it's cool down there. The heat wouldn't be as big of an issue if you do it in your house.
    I use two double 4' flourescent fixtures above each shelf. (two 4' fixtures with lamps are cheaper than one 8' with lamps)
    Don't waste money on grow lights. Research shows that GE kitchen and bath lamps provide good color spectrum for growing plants at a fraction of the cost.
    I suspend the lamps from sash chain so I can raise them as the plants grow. I wait till the plants actually touch the lamps before I raise them. The closer the better. I also have the lamps on a timer. Plants need dark/light cycles and I usually set it for 8 hours of dark daily. If the daylength is too short or light too far away the seedlings will be spindly and may not survive.
    Once they start growing well a little cooler conditions will help keep them from getting spindly too.

    The main thing to worry about is mold/mildew. Air movement over the flats will help.
    As for when to start the seed, look at germination times and count back from last frost in your area. Plan on at least 3 weeks of grow time before setting out. Before you plant in the garden, set the flats outside a couple days to harden them. They need to be exposed to sun and drying wind.
    Things like cucumbers, beans, peas and spinach, I usually just plant in the garden directly.
    Good luck.
    1 person likes this.
  9. NanaKat

    NanaKat Free Ranging Premium Member

    The only thing I would add to the comments made is to have on hand some Benomyl.
    You mix it with water and use it to spray your seedlings if younotice some of them have been dying because of stem rot/damping off. It kills the fungus that causes the baby plants to die off.

    ChickenCanoe has a good set up.
    You can get some of the same effect by using an open plastic bookshelf unit that has stackable shelving.
    Even a shop light set up above your refrigerator will allow you to set seed. The heat from the refrigerator and the light from the florescent work great in affecting borth sprouting and growing.

  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    This kind of shows what I do. I built a stand to support a fluorescent light. The light is on chains so I can control the height. It needs to be about 2” above what you are growing.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I cut the bottom out of those small yogurt cups and fill that with potting soil. I’ve tried different planting soils and get the best results with plain potting soil. I fill a black plastic tray that you can get from Walmart with the potting soil and settle the yogurt cups in that. This way the water can drain out of the yogurt cups so it does nto drown them, yet water can wick back up some to keep the soil from drying out. You want the soil damp, not soaking. The seeds will rot instead of sprout if it is too wet, plus the plants that do sprout will die from “damping off” disease if it is too wet. About once a week after they sprout, I use a weak solution of Miracle Gro in the water. But only once a week. You can over-fertilize them if you get carried away.

    To help sprout the plants, I built a box out of plywood and lined it with aluminum foil on the sides and bottom. I put cup hooks on the sides and ran a string of the old time Christmas lights back and forth. This can get hot. I had to remove most of the bulbs from that string of lights to keep it from getting too hot. I just set the black tray full of dirt on this box and it heats the soil. Certain seeds like peppers and tomatoes need warmer soil to germinate. I get much better results if I heat the soil and keep it damp, not wet.

    Seeds do not need light to sprout, but they do need light to grow. I keep the clear plastic cover on them to keep the soil from drying out until they sprout, but them remove the cover. Otherwise damping off can be a problem.

    About two weeks before I am ready to set them outside, I start to harden them. Plants grown indoors can die from shock if planted directly outdoors. I start putting them in shade and out of the wind for a few hours a day and gradually increase that to all day and all night to toughen them up. Bright sun and especially wind will dry them out and kill them during this hardening off process if you are not careful. Don’t let them dry out and don’t let the wind hit them. Since I have a constant south wind here, the North side of my workshop works great for this. Don’t put the plants where your chickens can get to them. They will destroy them in no time flat.

    I start my pepper plants early to mid February. They seem to take forever to sprout and grow really slowly when they do sprout. I start tomato plants about two weeks later. Occasionally the tomato plants get a little big before I set them out, but this gives me time to replant if all the first seeds don't come up. I've been known to repot the plants too if they outgrow those small yogurt cups.
    1 person likes this.

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